Code for America pushes public works for creators

Brianna Pelayo

Recruiters from a technological talent agency are searching for Austin residents who could use their electronic and computing skills to better the community.

Code for America, a program which recruits technological talent from U.S. cities, requires participants to spend a year building civic planning software to help cut city costs, improve resources and improve engagement with citizens. Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Washington, D.C. were previously chosen and currently have their own projects. According to the Code for America website, web-based applications designed by residents within each city will be sharable with other participating cities in order to support transparency and collaboration.

The program is intended to create immediate impact through its products as well as long-term improvement in each city’s mentality through public service, according to the website.

“It’s a mechanism to bring the passion and skills of startup and Internet communities into local government and to expose those talented, tech-savvy leaders into the public sector,” said government relations director Alissa Black.

Black said the program selects cities for participation based on the amount of known leadership within the communities in addition to how community leaders and residents explore and work together to solve problems. An application process is also involved.

“We evaluate those problems and really look at if we build a solution for them, if it is a reusable solution that can spread through other cities and counties throughout the country, because our goal is to build reasonable solutions, and part of that is to use open-source technology,” Black said.

City of Austin officials plan to create an easier way to access information and to be kept up to date with the community by partnering with Code for America.

“Austin has a strong, successful tech community,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “We are a center of innovation and we are the creative capital of the world. The Code for America program will allow us to use our own creative community to develop new technologies that can help us as our community faces growth challenges and a changing role in global economy.”

Matthew Esquibel, the Code for America technical lead for website redesign, said the city of Austin should be able to take advantage of the innovative mentality of the program.

“It’s really a great opportunity to collaborate with lots of other cities who have similar types of issues and give us an opportunity to use emerging technology to provide solutions to issues we have,” Esquibel said. “It’s a startup strategy a lot of up-and-coming companies use to be successful in application development.”